Oblivion is a movie that wishes desperately that it were based on a story by Philip K. Dick. It combines elements of such films, like Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Screamers (at least, I assume it does – I’ve never seen that movie, but I have read Second Variety – the story it’s based on). But interestingly, in addition to reflecting many tropes from Dick’s reality-questioning fiction, it also demonstrates elements of The Terminator, The Matrix, and Independence Day. That’s right – Independence Day, perhaps the most derivative alien invasion film ever, is now inspiring other science fiction mish-mashs.
Still, Oblivion is slick, sharply designed, poetically directed, and features a stylish and unusual soundtrack – not unlike Joseph Kosinski’s other film, Tron Legacy. It’s the sort of film that you go into knowing full well that there is going to be a twist and a startling revelation that will undermine our understanding of the world, but you just don’t know exactly what it’s going to be or when it’s going to come. And when it does, it’s pleasantly surprising, and it very nearly makes sense. At least, enough to get by.
Unfortunately, this is all undermined somewhat by an Independence Day-style ending, in which one the enemy demonstrates enough stupidity to allow the vastly underpowered humans to sneak into it’s belly and sew the seeds of its defeat. But on the other hand, it allows the film to have a bittersweet and hopeful ending, which of course left me feeling happier than if it’d been bleak and depressing.
Oblivion has one of the smallest casts for a major feature film that I have ever seen, with only ten credited actors. Tom Cruise is satisfactory as the lead, and Melissa Leo is suitably unnerving as a mysterious face on a screen. This makes the third film that I saw on my recent vacation featuring the great Morgan Freeman, and strangely, it’s the least annoying of the lot (the others are here and here).